NEWPORT County manager Dean Holdsworth’s delight after Saturday’s fantastic 3-0 win at Lewes was tempered by the news that key defender Alton Thelwell is set to leave the club.

The former Tottenham Hotspur centre-back is expected to join Kettering Town this week after the Exiles received a seven-day approach from the Blue Square Premier outfit.

Thelwell, who arrived at Spytty Park on non-contract terms in October, started Saturday’s game on the bench but replaced the injured Jamie Collins after 70 minutes for what will be his eighth and final appearance for the club.

Holdsworth revealed after the final whistle that the former England under-21 man would be moving on, and although sad to see him go, he understands the player’s decision.

“We’ve had an approach for Alton Thelwell and Alton will be leaving us this week for Kettering,” said the Exiles boss.

“I’m disappointed but he was non-contract so there was nothing we could do.

“I’ve shaken hands with him and thanked him for what he’s done for us.

“He wants to get back to full-time football and we can’t deny him that, but I’ve said to him we’ll be up there next year as well,” he added.

“I’ve already got a replacement lined up and we’ll hopefully tie the deal up very quickly.”

Brushing aside his disappointment with Thelwell’s exit, Holdsworth was loud in his praise for the side after Saturday’s win at the Dripping Pan.

Goals from Scott Rogers, Kerry Morgan and substitute Charlie Henry sealed the victory and maintained the Exiles’ eight-point lead at the top of the Blue Square South.

“We were very professional. It was an important win for us,” said Holdsworth.

“We’ve had a hell of a month and the fans who came down were superb because it’s a long way to come.

“We did it right by staying overnight and we were fantastic. We showed the quality we’ve got to get goals and it’s not a bad habit to have to keep picking up wins on the road.

“Scott Rogers and Wayne Turk were fantastic,” he added. “We’ve got a lot of quality up front but those two are brilliant every week and they led by example once again.

“Jamie Collins was outstanding at left-back too and I thought we were well worthy of the win.”

The victory would have been even more emphatic had Craig Reid not seen his penalty saved in the 44th minute after Lewes had substitute Ryan Timms sent off for hauling down Dave Gilroy.

The two strikers had a voluble difference of opinion over who should take the kick, but Holdsworth brushed aside fears of a rift between the pair.

“Reidy is the penalty-taker,” he said. “Gilly wanted it and I liked the desire he showed but he should have let Reidy get on with it. I think he maybe distracted him from the job in hand but it’s gone now.”

And the manager also defended goal-scorer Morgan after he escaped a red card for raising his hands to Lewes defender Jack Walder late on.

“It was a terrible tackle on him and he retaliated a bit,” he said.

“He’s got a bit of Welsh fire in his belly and he’s got to learn to keep a cool head at times. I’ll have a quiet word with him.”